Thursday, December 6, 2007

Book of Insults

...the suffering could be read on each body, as a document written in insults to flesh and bone...

-- Pynchon, Against the Day, Pt. III, p. 654

Wish I'd heard the crying of Lot # 181 at Wilkinson's Auction![1]

A Rare & Macabre Early 17th Century Anthropodermic Bound Book in carrying box. The book entitiled; 'A True and Perfect Relation of The Whole Proceedings against the Late most barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats'; Printed London 1606 by Robert Barker, printer to the King and believed to be bound in human skin[2], possibly that of the aforementioned Jesuit Priest; Father Henry Garnet.

But books, snooks: The Brits apparently nailed Viking hides to their church doors—a caution to would be marauders. "It would seem," notes FoxEarth, "to be ascribing a meticulous care to the Anglo-Saxons to take the existing hinges off in order to mount the Danes' skin."

If you're interested in bounding books and doors (and yourself, Mr. Gein) with human skin but you cannot spare the flesh, here is the workshop for you:[3]

Sunday Dec 2nd 11am to 5pm - Mini Tissue Engineering workshop and lecture ... University of Western Australia (sorry, sold out): Tissue culture and tissue engineering represent a new area for artistic engagement ... Tissue engineering enable researchers to grow three dimensional living tissues constructs of varying sizes, shapes and tissue types. This half-day hands on intensive workshop will introduce … people to basic principals of animal tissue culture ... The workshop will involve a demonstration for how to extract and cultivate stem cells from bones bought at the butcher. These advanced techniques can be done with homemade equipment and kitchen gear.

[1]"Contact your postmaster!" cried our friends on the Pynchon-L, noting that "Lot 49 is some kinda pot!"

[2] Of course there are many other Necromicon wanna-be’s, including this here reverse-Faustian-twist: "The Boston Athenaeum, a private library, has an 1837 copy of George Walton's memoirs bound in his own skin. Walton was a highwayman -- a robber who specialized in ambushing travelers -- and he left the volume to one of his victims, John Fenno."

[3] We thank BoingBoing for bringing this class & the Wilkinson’s Auction Item to attention.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Welcome to Visions of Jesus

This site is a collection of weeping statues, weeping icons, miraculous images and a list of Catholic visionaries who are associated with Marian apparitions.

'Nuff said, really.

It was fortuitous that Laws of Silence stumbled onto Visions of Jesus via the page about the rather gruesome Bolivian weeping icon we've pictured with this here blog entry, for he's macabre enough to excite the morbid imagination and invite further exploration of the site.

Although the site is evidently reverential and comes from a standpoint of faith, there are lots of good photos and lore to be found for those seeking to learn more about "miraculous" icons. And hey, why not put it into some context with a dubious Wikipedia link to Weeping statues. While you're at it, take a peep at Marian apparitions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Tale of the Lambton Worm

The Laws of Silence recently reported two tales of water & death: the fountain sprung from the sarcophagus of St. Fris & the haunted falls at the heart of Minneapolis. Another such tale stems from Sunderland (North East England); this tale is said to be at least 500 years older than the stories of the Loch Ness Monster.

Our story starts with Young John Lambton, heir of the Lambton estate, a rich young punk who shirked his duty and smirked at misdeeds. Skipping church one Sunday to fish the River Wear (rhymes with “near”), he pulled out a hideous open-gilled eel; disgusted, he tossed the foul thing into the peasants’ well (one can picture the jerk taking a piss in the waters right after)—echoic of the French tales of Gargantua, living in a well where people tossed stones at his head.

But the weight of duty cannot be escaped so easily: shrugged from young John’s shoulders, it weighed upon his heart, a burden of guilt. After a restless Sunday night, a weary Monday morning found Lambton at church, where the priest sent him to the Crusades in penance.

Nine battle-weary years later, Lambton found his homelands in the grips of terror. First the well had grown foul; soon nearby sheep and cattle were vanishing in the night. A ring of terror and death spanned outward from the well, a navel with the umbilical worm grown gargantuan in John’s absence A few brave souls challenged the beast, but whenever it was hacked by swords it healed itself, rejoining its cleaved halves and smothering its would-be killers in a constricting embrace before devouring their lifeless bodies. John’s weary old father surrendered into truce, leaving nightly offerings for the beast outside his castle: a trough filled with milk from nine cows seemed to satiate the dragon’s ravenous hunger ("worm" stems from older words meaning "dragon"). The once proud ruler was emasculated, reduced to a wet nurse for his son’s worm.

John Lambton had turned to a priest when guilt engulfed his heart, but he turned to a witch when the worm engulfed his lands. The witch gave John a plan of attack but told him that once the serpent was defeated he was required to kill the first living thing he saw; should he fail, shirking from this duty, the Lambtons would be cursed—for nine generations, none would die in bed. (This type of deal is know as Jephthah’s Vow in reference to a similar bargain related in Old Testament, Judges 11:30-35.)

Lambton followed the witch’s plans: he crafted razor-spiked armor, waited for river-swelling rains, and rowed a boat to a rocky stand in the Wear. The Lambton worm sensed the challenge and rushed forth to kill its former captor. It coiled round the Crusader and constricted; but the tighter it gripped, the more the armor cut into its flesh. John stood fast as the serpent cleaved itself, its severed flesh rushing off in the roaring waters which prevented it from rejoining itself.

John rowed back to shore and trumpeted victory with his hunting horn, the prearranged signal to his father who was supposed to release a hound for John’s required sacrifice. But the elder Lambton, overcome with joy and relief, tottered out of the castle, arms held out wide for his son—he was the first living thing to fall under John’s horrified gaze. All John had to do was meet his father’s embrace; the razor-sharp armor would do the rest—but he could not fulfill his duty. He shouted for a hound and killed it in desperation.

History shows that nine generations of Lambtons died a violent death.

As an interesting side note, Lewis Carroll spent lots of time in Sunderland. Was Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole inspired in part by this tale of a beast in a well?

We leave you a few final questions: Why are death & water so often linked? Is it simply that water is associated with life and the desecration of water therefore a harbinger of death? Then why the River Styx? And why is slipping into the earth so often associated with surrealist adventures? Our recently posted examination of the desecration of the Mississippi suggests that these are not just the stuff of European tales of yore: elemental water and earth continue to hold sway in the shadowy realm of ... imagination?

Recommended for further reading on the Lambton Worm:

  • Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon, chapter 60
  • Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot
  • The Bishoprick Garland, Sir Cuthbert Sharpe gathered 30-some versions of this tale in 1834. There were a couple reprints, but it’s still an uncommon work. We would be incredibly grateful to anyone who could supply us with a scan of the relevant pages in the The Bishoprick Garland.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Google Earth reveals secret Nazi-UFO landing pad


SWASTIKA?: The buildings, constructed in the 1960s, are on the Coronado amphibious base and serve as a barracks for Seabees. From the ground, or even adjoining buildings, the configuration cannot be seen. Nor are there any civilian or military landing patterns that provide such a view. But Google Earth shows the shape clearly. 

So reads a Chicago Tribune story about the US Navy's new $600,000 project to assuage those afflicted by an aerial view no one would have been able to see if not for the world-at-your-fingertips phenomenon called Google Earth. Funny thing is how old this story is. Conspiracy websites have been yammering about this image for years and no one gave a shit. Now Google comes along with its Nazi-busting super-technology and the Navy is going to turn the swastika into something less offensive, perhaps maybe a nice big fasces like you can find on the walls of Congress, the Supreme Court building, old dimes....One can only hope that Google will foot the bill, you know, cuz 600,000 beans would go a long way towards paying off those outstanding Blackwater invoices....


Of course, we would be remiss not to include a link to this article, which suggests architect John Mock was a Nazi sympathizer....

These giant swastikas can go relatively unnoticed for decades after their creation. In 1992 a swastika made of trees was discovered in a forest near the village of Zernikow, 60 miles north of Berlin. No pussy landscape architecture here. Them Nazis commandeered a healthy chunk of pine forest to show the sky just what the fuck was what.


Apparently it was planted in the thirties and not discovered until almost sixty years had passed by a guy looking through some aerial photographs. Nothing like a bit of altitude to get a better perspective on things.

The Zernikow swastika was destroyed by chainsaws, ostensibly to prevent the site from becoming a neo-Nazi pilgrimage but just as likely to make up for a collaborationist sense of shame. The San Diego swastika will reverse that method: elaborate plantings, among other camouflage, will hide the offending fylflot. No word yet as to which pilgrims will thus be discouraged from making the reverent hajj to Coronado.


“We told the Navy this was an incredibly inappropriate shape for a structure on a military installation,” said Morris S. Casuto, regional director of the [Anti-Defamation League]. He added, however, that his group “never ascribed evil intent to the structures’ design."

A much different attitude from critics of the Pentagon.... 

How much will the DOD spend to change that offensive bit of geometry?

And Francisco Coronado's successor Don Juan Oñate hacked off the left foot of every adult male in Acoma Pueblo as retaliation for a battle that left his nephew dead. These men and everyone else in the Pueblo were put into slavery.

Be warned, ye good men! There are certainly many other as-yet-undiscovered offensive shapes lurking out there in Google's wide, woolly Earth....

Be careful of those names, too. You might just end up in Matamoros, or as we say in English: The War on Terror.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Sad Case of Ramoncito Gonzales

Two posts back Laws of Silence ended with a synopsis of the story of Ramoncito Gonzales, a young boy brutally murdered by a person or persons unknown in such a way as to suggest an occult or ritual murder. According to a local newspaper, police are moving away from the theory that the murder had to do with "Satanic rites" and focusing instead on the no less shocking but less sensational underworld of child prostitution and exploitation.

The fate of the two women arrested, mentioned in our previous post, remains unclear from subsequent articles related to the case, but it would appear that more arrests have been made since the beginning of August.

It is also clear that strong pressure to resolve the case is leading to perhaps hasty arrests and wild speculations which only add to an atmosphere of fear and confusion.

In any event, those who know some Spanish might be interested in checking out the Mi Mercedes website, which is following the case closely.

One of the articles links to a blurb about the celebration of Ramón Nonato on his feast day, 31 August. St. Raymond (1204-1240) is the patron of pregnant woman, childbirth, children and the unborn. "He is also a patron of secrecy and anonymity, and a protector against slander and captivity. His name means "not born" and comes from his own entry into the world: his mother having died during labor, he was delivered by from her dead womb. "Cut out of her dead body in a spontaneous emergency operation performed by the Viscount of Cardona with a dagger he carried in his belt" according to Fausto's Art Gallery in Ojinaga, Chihuahua. He became a Mercedarian monk, working for the release of Christian prisoners held by the Moors. He was sent to Algeria in this capacity and at one point he traded himself for a prisoner. According to Wikipedia:

"He suffered in captivity. A legend states that the Moors bored a hole through his lips with a hot iron, and padlocked his mouth to prevent him from preaching. He was ransomed by his order and in 1239 returned to Spain."

Although his cult was reduced in status in 1969, he's apparently becoming more important again as a Church tool against abortion; he remains especially popular in Latin America and appears to be well-known in New Mexico as well.

Mexican believers pray to him in order to silence malicious gossips. A red candle is lit by a votive image of the saint, which is then "silenced" by means of a coin affixed over the saint's mouth while prayers are recited.

In any event, he may have suffered like his namesake in Mercedes, but he seems to have been sleeping on the job when the poor little fellow needed him most. He might be pretty busy these days, however; with the demand for arrests and justice mounting, many people might be asking for help with any number of his various specialities, falsely and legitimately accused alike.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sacred Waters

How we take care of the water is how it will take care of us
Eddie Benton Benais, Grand Chief of the Mdewiwin (Medicine) Society, Anishinabe spiritual elder

“She keeps men faithful to their wives and will judge and kill men who violate the sanctity of marriage if called upon to do so, because her husband was unfaithful to her, causing her to commit suicide, and to hate and punish all unfaithful men.” So writes Cat Yronwode on Santisima Muerte, going on to note similarities with La Llorona, ghostly haunt of the North American southwest. The tales of La Llorona are wideflung and varied, adopted to regional cultures and landscapes. “At any rate,” Wikipedia noting the common thread that strings these tales together, “La Llorona chooses to murder her children, almost always by drowning, either to spare them a life of poverty, to free herself to seek another man, or for revenge against their absent or stray father.”

This turned our minds to the tale of Ampato Sapa—whose name is Dakotan for “Dark Day”:

“A young Indian woman sat in a little canoe with her two small children, and rowed it out into the river in the direction of the falls [...] She sang in lamenting tones the sorrow of her heart, of her husband's infidelity, and her determination to die. [...] Her voice was soon silenced in the roar of the fall. The boat paused for a moment on the brink of the precipice, and the next was carried over it and vanished in the foaming deep. The mother and her children were seen no more. The Indians still believe that in the early dawn may be heard the lamenting song deploring the infidelity of the husband; and they fancy that at times may be seen the mother, with the children clasped to her breast, in the misty shapes which arise from the fall around the Spirit Island.”

Today these falls—the only on the upper Mississippi river—lay in the heart of Minneapolis, but numerous native traditions imbue this region with Geomantic sacredness. Let your imagination flow with Sapa’s spirit downstream: After crashing over the falls, home to Oanktehi, a Dakotan god of waters and evil, you gust past Spirit Island, where legend has it that Dakotan women came to give birth; a few miles tumble by rushed before the rapids slowly subside as the bluffs rise above you; a few lazy miles further and you feel Minnehaha’s cold splashing into the river; Minnehaha Falls, revered as “a sacred place, a neutral place, a place for many nations to come,” babbles through the hills on your right, hidden by trees and terrain; floating on another mile or two, you carve through a deep river gorge and far overhead flows Cold Water Springs “from which the sacred water should be drawn”; you spin, sailing by Pilot Knob, “considered to be the center of the world by the Dakota,” curving sharply as the Minnesota River (“Mdote Minisota”) confluence shoves the powerful Mississippi northwest; crossing into modern-day St. Paul you drift a few miles further, passing Carver’s Cavern (now gone, destroyed for a railroad), where the Dakotans held tribal councils, their burial grounds soaring above you on Dayton’s Bluffs.

Jump forward in time and the first white face on the scene adds a new sacred tie: Father Hennepin, Franciscan explorer, christened the falls St. Anthony after his patron saint Anthony of Padua, “Hammer of Heretics,” bilocationist, and finder of things lost. (Ampato Sapa knew the falls as Minirara, or “curling water.”) As time marches forward, the city of Minneapolis slowly erects itself around Minirara, harnessing the fall’s power to drive sawmills, textile plants, and grain mills; progressively taming the falls with locks, dams, skirts, and bridges; and eventually obliterating Spirit Island in the process of civilizing Old Man River.

Pause for a second. Consider the drownings of La Llorana and Ampato Sapa, the sacredness of water across so many cultures, and the theme of revenge. Faithful readers will recall that recently, while reporting on Gargantuan (who “lived at the bottom of a well where people came to throw stones at him, hitting him in the head”), we told of “a young woman, a bread maker, [who] once went to a sacred fountain to get water for her dough and as she lifted the bucket the water turned to blood.”

“Folklore has it that sacred water used for profane purposes leads to punishment and pollution of water,” we wrote, asking, “was she the last remnant of a pagan culture?”

We found our answer in an echo. Check this out: “A Minneapolis city employee got a gruesome surprise as he was cleaning the city's sewer line. A manhole near a medical laboratory began spraying human and animal blood into the face and mouth of Ron Huebner […] ‘Blood just all over my face, in my mouth, I could taste it. It was terrible. I had it in my mouth and I kept spitting and I couldn't get rid of it’.”

The Associated Press goes on to report that “the Metropolitan Council, has confirmed that the blood was indeed a combination of both animal and human matter […and that] nearly fifty different organizations possess permits allowing them to dispose of those kinds of wastes.”

Just to recap: That’s human blood, dumped by permit into the Mighty Mississippi, just upstream from Oanktehi’s sacred home in Minirara Falls (now both dammed and sainted) where Ampato Sapa killed herself and her children before haunting Spirit Island (obliterated by engineers), a few miles up river from the Dakotan tribal council caverns (sheered away for a rail road) and burial grounds (now a city park).

July 26, approximately four months following the bloody baptism, a storm raged in drought-ridden Minneapolis. A crew repairing the sewer fled to the surface for their lives. Two didn’t make it out alive; their drowned bodies washed into the Mississippi.

Six days later, the interstate 35 W bridge, spanning the river a few blocks south of the falls, collapsed: Cars, rebar, people, concrete strew into the river; thirteen killed, a hundred more injured. A “main artery,” President Bush said. Severed. Curiously, few seem to have noticed that another artery has also been severed: River traffic, barges, no longer course through the heart of Minneapolis, blocked by the ruins—though the water continues to flow, churning through her breast.

Love, too, courses through the heart. Sever this artery, and answer to La Llorona—a familiar tale of coursing love, broken promises and broken hearts, and appeals for revenge. La Llorona—“the weeping”: Vengeful saint for the jilted; her tears continue to flow.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Folk Heroes and the Cults of Death

Only a post or so ago Laws of Silence linked to a Washington Post article about Jesus Malverde, a folk saint of northern Mexico whose cult has made its way into the teeming capital city. Malverde was a dark and handsome man, or so it is said, who was either a construction worker or railway man. During the anarchy which preceded the Mexican Revolution in 1910, he is said to have become a bandit, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Then he was captured and again, reports differ, but he was either shot or hung. Some accounts give this martyrdom an especially New Testament spin by adding he was betrayed by a friend for a reward. Today he's treated as a full-fledged saint, his shrine attracts thousands yearly and healings have been attributed to him. The Vatican recognizes none of this but no matter, his cult is firmly entrenched anyway. The Post article describes a family shrine in a poor neighborhood of Mexico City, where Malverde is posed with "La Santísima Muerte", patroness of death. The scene described is macabre and the two make a sort of holy couple, he dressed in a stylish cowboy hat and sporting a thick mustache, she dressed as the blushing bride, her skeletal hand clutching a scythe!

Jump a few thousand kilometers south to Argentina. Gauchito Gil was a farmhand born in the 1840's in the region of Corrientes. A handsome young man, he fell in love with a wealthy widow. They may have had an affair. When a rival, who happened to be the local police chief, heard of this affair he conspired to have Gil arrested. Gil fled to the army, where he fought against neighboring Paraguay. He returned a hero and was temporarily shielded, but was pressed back into service in the Argentine Civil War.

By this time Gil was tired of the fighting and he deserted. When the police finally caught up with him he was tortured and strung up by his heels from a tree. As one of their number approached to kill Gil, Gil told him that he knew the man's son was dying, but if he prayed to him (Gil), his dying son would be spared. The cop then slit his throat.

The policeman, however, could not let the condemned man's words rest, and he prayed for Gil's intercession. The dying son recovered. The policeman, grateful, decided to give Gil a proper burial, build a shrine in his memory and spread the word of the miracle. (Alternate details of the legend can be found here.)

The story is strikingly similar to that of Malverde. A poor yet virile and honorable man lives outside the law, becoming a hero to the marginal and suffers death for it. Like Malverde, Gil's cult is fervent among the poor and thousands flock to his shrine near Mercedes (Corrientes) each year, especially on January 8th, the day of his "martyrdom." Also like Malverde, the Church has given no official recognition to this cult.

Corrientes is home to many beliefs which are not officially recognized by the Church. Another regional folk saint honors death. Again, like Malverde, one can also find Gil side by side with San La Muerte or the Señor de la Muerte.

The cult of Señor de la Muerte or San La Muerte is very widespread in Corrientes. Just as the cult of Jesus Malverde spread to the capital city from the north, Gauchito Gil and San La Muerte have ended up in Buenos Aires. This website, if you can read Spanish or not, is guaranteed to intrigue. All of it seems so exotic, but to the practitioners, there is no conflict with this cult and Catholicism. They are simply celebrating another saint, morbid though it may be. The Protestants are trying to chip away at these beliefs as they are everywhere else in Latin America; in the process, they've left some interesting photos and descriptions.

What is intriguing is that in Mexico and Argentina we find nearly identical stories of a common man, virile and mustachioed, struck down by the Man and resurrected as a folk saint. Their stories are essentially the same and both are found side by side with Holy Death.

San La Muerte, unfortunately, is not simply colorful regional charm to blog about blythely. While surely not representative of the cult in any wider sense, some authorities in Corrientes suspect it had a part to play in the gruesome ritual murder of a 12-year-old boy.

The following account of this gruesome story comes from a report by Argentina's Pagina 12.

Ramoncito was the child of a poor woman who became a prostitute to support her family. He himself was eventually drawn into the world of child prostitution, still managing to go to school. In fact he was last seen leaving his school, on October 6, 2006. He was found the following day, dressed only in shorts. His head had been placed by his left shoulder.

Forensics reports state that he was beheaded with a sharp knife from left to right. As the beheading began, the boy was alive. The boy had cigarette burns on his hips, arms and the palms of his hands. A deep cut under his left buttock was found. His blood had been drained and the third to seventh cervical vertebrae had been removed.

Early in the case, the authorities thought they had found the murderers, suspected practioners of kimbanda among them. They were released in June as there was insufficient reason to hold them further. Then, in mid-July two women were arrested after a search revealed traces of human blood on the walls in one of the women's houses, located in the slaughterhouse district of Mercedes. They were both practitioners of a mish-mash of Christianity, kimbanda, various Afro-Brazilian practices, spiritualism and especially devoted to the Corrientes version of Señor La Muerte.

The judicial hypothesis is that the boy was a sacrifice in the death cult. "....Finding the body at a crossroads of street and avenue, the trunk and the feet pointing northeast. The position of the skull, that had been removed by somebody with certain knowledge. And mainly the fact the blood had been used for something, that we did not find any blood in the body makes us think this is a ritual crime" said a source familiar with the case to Pagina 12.

The family's lawyer, though appreciative of police efforts, said that "we cannot think there is much more behind this." Sources at the prosecutor's office admit that another line to follow is the "drugs" theory, though there is nothing concrete beyond the idea that the participants may have used drugs when they participated in the "sacrifice."

Jose Humberto Miceli, an ethnographer studying new religious movements since 1985, believes that to find an explanation of the crime one must look to the cult of Señor de la Muerte. Formerly he is said to have consumed blood symbolically because if not he would dry up. The missing vertebrae are also important. "Normally they [his devotees] robbed these from cemeteries," said Miceli, "and made talismans from them or with the scrapings of these, made ointments. It is the magico-religious tradition of Corrientes."

If it does prove to be the case that a perverted devotion to San La Muerte is behind this sad story, there is no reason the tar the entire belief system. The murderers are exceptional not only in their cruelty but in murdering someone at all. In the last century, this would be the first muder directly linked to the worship of San La Muerte. It's not the cult which should be eradicated, but the grinding poverty and degradation that compelled a mother and her son into prostitution in order to survive, and led the child directly into the hands of a savage and unconscionable death.

Friday, August 3, 2007

"The Eagle of the Arabs"

Saddam Hussein's burial place, in his native village on the banks of the Tigris, may be the only public space in Iraq where the former ruler, hanged in December at the age of 69, is openly extolled. Under a decree dating from the American occupation in 2003, still in force under the new Iraqi government, all paintings, photographs and statues of Mr. Hussein are forbidden, as are public protests in his support. At least in terms of public hagiography, he remains, everywhere else in Iraq, a nonperson.

Interesting NYT article about the shrine to Saddam erected by his family in Awja. Reporter John F. Burns seems to be sporting a heavy set of brass balls.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Golden Legend of St. Fris

Onward, Christian Soldier 

According to legend, St. Fris was the son of the Frisian King Rabbod and a nephew of Charles Martel. In 732, he was ordered to follow the retreat of the Moorish army led by Abd el-Rhaman after the latter was defeated at Poitiers. The Saracens defeated the Franks at Lupiac, but Fris caught up with his quarry once again at the plateau of l’Étendard[1] just outside the present-day village of Bassoues in the Gers department. In the ensuing battle, Fris rallied his troops by planting his cross-bearing standard into the ground, (very sexy), but for him the victory was not to be sweet. Fris was struck by an arrow and his frightened horse bolted, carrying him to the banks of the stream called the Guiroe, where he died. His troops found his body and buried him on the spot. Although his deeds were remembered, his final resting place was to be forgotten.

Two hundred years later a herdsman frequently grazed his herd on this hill, unknowing. Over time he became puzzled by a cow which always stood alone, never eating, yet remained among the best-looking animals in his herd. Then one day he noticed it licking a boulder. He was perplexed and investigated; scratching at the stone, he revealed a sarcophagus which proved to hold a man's body inside, perfectly intact, laid to rest with his armor and his weapons. At this very instant a fountain sprung up on the spot. News of this miracle spread, and the townspeople came to wonder at the water flowing up from around a dead man’s body. Soon afterwards several miraculous cures ensued. It was thus decided that a basilica should be constructed to house the remains of Saint Fris, but upon its completion, even the most powerful oxen were unable to transport the sarcophagus. The peasant thus hitched his young cow and thence transported the sarcophagus with ease. 

(basic details of the legend from the Dossier de Presse Comptes et Légendes and the website of Bassoues) 

Pagan Predecessors, Christian Corrollaries 

Denise Homerin links St. Fris to several pagan deities prominent in this part of the Gers long before and well into the Christian era.[2] The first of these was Mars. The ancient forest of Marsoulès is one of many places in the region that still bears his name. St. Fris himself is of obvious Martian, that is to say martial, significance. First and foremost he is a warrior, pictured in armor and carrying a sword. His colors of red and gold are also those of Mars, as is his title; he is Astra d’or, the Star of Gold. The horse upon which he is often depicted also echoes the iconography of Mars. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica regarding Mars:
We know little of the character of his cult except at Rome, and even at Rome it has been variously interpreted. He has been explained as a sun-god, a god of wind and storm, a god of the year and a god of vegetation; and he has been compared with Apollo by Roscher (Apollo, and Mars, 1873, and in the article "Mars" in his Lexicon of Mythology). But in historical times his chief function at Rome was to protect the state in war, and it is as a god of war that he is known to all readers of Roman literature.

It is also worth noting that St. Fris bears significant symbolic ties to San Jacques de Compostela, who in some traditions is known as Santiago Matamoros, or "Moor-Slayer" after his apparition at the battle of Clavijo in 844, a mere century after the death of St. Fris. As Matamoros, Saint Jacques is often depicted on horsback, with sword and armor and wearing a red cape. In short, the same iconography as St. Fris and Mars.
The body of St. Fris was found on January 16, 10 days after Epiphany, which in Orthodox traditions lasts until January 18. Epiphany celebrates the “shining forth” of Jesus; it is the twelfth day of Christmas, which itself corresponds roughly to the winter solstice. His iconography thus also reflects that of the unvanquished Sun, Sol Invictus. Other aspects are like those of Apollo-Belenos (“Bel” is found in many local place names). This incarnation of Apollo was a god of the air, a celestial god of light, emphasizing the fertile and curative virtues of the sun.

An analysis of place names along local pilgrimage routes to that pass Bassoues on the way to Compostela also links St. Fris to giants, specifically the divine force later personified by Rabelais as Gargantua. Gargantua, is a character which derives from various French oral traditions dating back to the time of the Celts.[3] Originally he was a divinity or a kind of beneficial primordial force personified as a giant bringing order out of chaos. In the wake of his passage, his feet left hills and depressions; where he rested became natural rock formations. He was even responsible for rivers created by answering nature's call. In short, he represented the telluric forces which created natural landscapes. To this day many place names and mountains all over France bear names which derive from his various Celtic appellations. Perhaps more importantly to our story is that his was sometimes a solar myth.

Many of the megaliths and cromlechs found throughout France are described as his furniture. These places are often linked to the earth’s fecundity and indeed, Gargantua’s phallus was quite celebrated. Like the fairies (Morgan la Fey was his godmother) he was capable of transforming himself into many forms, especially that of a dragon, long recognized to be a phallic and masculine symbol. In the Christian era his cult was transformed; St Gorgon, for example, took his place as a patron of fecundity.

According to one legend “Gargantua” lived at the bottom of a well where people came to throw stones at him, hitting him in the head. Does the discovery of St. Fris echo these legends, found as he was surrounded by stone from which a sacred spring miraculously issued? His head was later placed as a relic in nearby Peyrusse Grande.

An ancient burial rite for millers placed the corpse in its tomb with a circle of stones about the head, the stones presumably a reference to the millstone which made his trade possible. Another legend has it that a young woman, a bread maker, once went to a sacred fountain to get water for her dough and as she lifted the bucket the water turned to blood. Folklore has it that sacred water used for profane purposes leads to punishment and pollution of water. Was she the last remnant of a pagan culture?

The Mother Goddess or Magna Mater was also very prominent in the area. We have already noted the similarity of S.t Fris legend to that of Marial legends: discovery by a cow or ox, the association with the earth and especially life-giving waters. In addition to the discovery of Saint Fris, at Bassoues there is a long tradition of cows with horns in the form of crescent moons, a conspicuous symbol of the Virgin Mary, whose abundant syncretic capacities have been well-established in scholarly literature.

Homerin also links St. Fris to another curious local legend of the seven cows of gold. The story goes as follows. As rich as the earth itself, a King gave freely to friends and poor alike, who all assured him they would walk through heaven and earth for him as a result of his generosity. One day, a tearful young man came to the King to ask for alms in order to grieve for his mistress and to pay to have a mass sung in her honor. This was granted and the deeds were done. The young man returned to the palace to place himself in the service of the king, where he became known as the Black Valet. When he noticed that the King's fortune was falling to a dangerously low level, he warned the King that he would soon be penniless. But the King continued to give generously to his friends. As his fortunes continued to diminish, the King's friends accused the Valet of being a thief. But the King continued to spread his largess until he was destitute. The Valet’s predictions had come to pass and the impoverished King found that his "friends" had disappeared. But the King had been planning to reside in another palace he had built, and thence he repaired in the company of the Black Valet. There the King revealed a secret ritual to the Valet that would ensure the opulence of the Kingdom. He made a flute from a cut reed during the last night of the year [That is to say, during Epiphany] and taught the Valet how to play it. Then at Midsummer’s day [June 24th, day of St. Jean], they both went to the banks of the Gers. At midnight and at the sound of the flute, seven golden cows appeared, ready to be milked. Their milk transformed into gold coins which were then thrown into the river. When the King died a year later, the Valet inherited his kingdom as a wealthy man. A herald announced that the inhabitants would have a share of this wealth and the new King set off for the land where his master was buried. He learned Latin, became a monk, and had a monastery built where prayers were held day and night for the Prince of the seven golden cows. 

(This account based on Le prince des sept vaches d’or by Jungian Psychologist Lorraine Dupont.)
The legend of the golden cows tells us many things. It is based upon the Biblical account of Pharaoh’s dreams. Genesis 41:1-4 reads:

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
The links to St. Fris are also clear. The gold coins in the legend were submerged in water the on Midsummer’s Day, the 24th of June, the day that the sarcophagus of St. Fris was interred. The day the reed flute which calls the cows forth was created on the last night of the year, during Epiphany, when St. Fris was discovered. St. Fris is connected with solar divinities such as Mars, Sol Invictus, Apollo and the Celtic force later personified as Gargantua. He has also been linked to Mary. 

Legend has it that cows often attract shepherds to statues of the Virgin, especially Black Virgins. Recall the Black Valet who with the King’s secret brought back wealth from penury, or life from death. Cows also attracted people to St. Fris who then functioned as both solar agent and life-giving spring. Water and sun. Beginning a slow death at Midsummer and shaking off death beginning at Yuletide. As above, so below, as they say.

Recall old St. Jacques de Compostela, man of the seashell. He too was placed on a stone which became sacred; when his corpse was laid upon it he sank into the stone. Mother Earth had taken him back, temporarily, into the womb. His casket, then, was in fact a crib, a symbol of resurrection. The cow licking the stone where St. Fris was found in his sarcophagus was acting like a cow aiding the birth of a calf, licking away the afterbirth. The sun appears vanquished in the west, but rises in the east above the fountain six months after the immersion of the coins and the corpse on St. Jean, that is to say the time of Epiphany. Brought forth by a cow with crescent horns and a fertile mother. At Rouffignac men used to go in wagons drawn by oxen to the tomb of the giant Gargantua. Sometimes he awoke and swallowed the cows! At l’Etendard hill the men likewise came in oxen-drawn wagons to carry the body of St. Fris to a new location, but they couldn't move the body.  Not any old cow or goddess would do. When the young herdsman who had discovered the tomb hitched his heifer to the sarcophagus, he affixed a statue of the Virgin to his cart. She was dressed in funerary garb, but she represented a kind of birth, a birth indistinguishable from its own future resurrection. She brought St. Fris forth during Epiphany, when she brought the Son forth, and, to hack into an old Star Trek episode, the Sun as well. For it is at this point the sun starts to come back from the dead. And onSt. John's Day, when St. Fris died, and the coins of the Golden Cows were put into the river, the sun begins its downward descent. But like the coins and the Kingdom, the Sun is reborn, and of course Jesus returns. It's telling that the literal instrument—the flute—which calls the cows forth was made during Epiphany.

St. Fris is essentially a stand-in for the Virgin. When St. Mary's Cathedral was dedicated at Auch, St. Fris’ relics were brought along for the ceremony. The altar at the St. Fris chapel therein includes a statue of the Virgin more recent that that of St. Fris.  The village fête of Bassoues is on September 8, the day of the Nativity of the Virgin. On 15 August, Assumption, there is a procession to l’Étendard where hymns are sung to the Virgin.

[1] Translates to “standard” or “banner” 
[2] The remainder of this text is a summary of her article A l'aube de l'Europe, un saint friso-gascon : la légende dorée de saint Fris de Bassoues. (2[ème] partie) ; Bulletin de la Société de mythologie française ; 1999, no195, pp. 17-28 
[3] The name Gargantua, however is a Rabelaisian invention; there is no record of it anywhere before him.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Narco-Saint

"I am the Devil. Dance with me," the recorded voice shrieks. "I can give you sex. I can give you drugs. I can give you house." The audience watches, transfixed. Some carry statues of La Santísima Muerte and peer at the whirling young girl under the blade of the saint's sickle.

So reads a Washington Post article about Jesús Malverde, a folk hero from the Mexican State of Sinaloa. There are conflicting stories about who he was, how he met his end at the hands of the Mexican government and his existence has never actually been verified. But he's a popular figure in the north due to his reputation as a kind of Robin Hood, often called the "narco-saint" after having been adoped by drug traffickers as their patron; his shrine in Culiacán attracts thousand each year, despite not being recognized in any way by the Catholic church. Nonetheless, miracles and healing have been attributed to him.

The ritual described in the Post article is fascinating and bizarre, recommended reading from the Laws of Silence.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Those pesky Freemasons are at it again....

Dig this headline from cryptocracy mouthpiece The New York Times: "Israel Arrests 33 Hamas Officials" (boldface added). This number, friends, is most obviously a sign that this event is yet another example of Freemasons flaunting their control of all world events. None dare call it conspiracy!

From the last link:
There is literally an infinite list of events and dates correlating with the numbers # 13 and # 33 that when examined closely dovetail seemingly with some master plan that precludes mere coincidence.

An infinite list? Wow.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Bats and Bobs

Or rather, bat and bob.

The bat: Lack of internet connection means Laws of Silence hasn't been updated in some time. Check back in a week's time and we'll see where we're at.

The bob: You may notice that some comments were suppressed from the last entry. This isn't due to censorship but technical confusion. Originally coments were to be moderated; comments weren't immediately visible. The result was that we saw multiple postings of the same comment. So they were eliminated. Anyhoo, comment moderation has been turned off and all comments will be seen right away. So now you have extraordinary power: use it wisely!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jesus Bleeds

Thousands of people are descending upon the town of Port Blair in India's Andaman Islands to pray before a policeman's house, where two votive portraits appear to have bled during a period of ten days. Although crowds caused one of the portraits to be temporarily housed in the Anglican Bishop's house, the portraits are now back at the original location.

It's being hailed as a miracle, of course, in a place where at least 7,000 people lost their lives during the terrible tsunami of 2004. But there are those who have suggested that the "blood" is merely the red paint of Jesus' tunic, melting in the humidity.

This article makes sure to note that the crowds are Protestant Christians, which belies other reports that even Hindus and Muslims are gathering to pay homage. A Catholic or two is probably somewhere in the mix.

But dig this sulk from the Catholic Bishop: “I heard about the story, but I have not seen the painting and I do not plan on doing so. In the past there have been similar incidents and so I urge caution in order to avoid fueling false religious sentiments. Now if you will excuse me, I must attend the Confirmation of some young children, something which to me is much more important than this painting.”

The miracle will remain, as always, in the eye of the beholder.

Weird scenes from above

Some observations about the infamous "D.C. Pentagram" 

The DC pentagram has attracted the attention of conspiracy theorists claiming it is further proof of a Freemasonic and/or Satanic conspiracy within the U.S. Government. Laws of Silence does not subscribe to these theories, but as it has an interest in the apparent intersection of occult imagery and politics, further investigation was made. True enough, the pentagram is defined by points which have at least some Masonic connection. Make of that what you will.

The Location of the Pentagram

Dupont and Logan Circles form the two leg-points of the pentagram.

The lines are traced up 15th St. and Connecticut Avenue where they are broken at K St. by Farragut and McPherson Squares. 

The lines pick back up but are broken again at LaFayette Park. 

The two lines, if continued, form the tip of the star--which on a North-oriented map is inverted--at the center of the White House. 

K St. forms the bar of the pentagram and culminates at Washington Circle and Mt. Vernon Square. From Mt. Vernon the line rejoins Dupont Circle via Massachussetts Avenue.

The star is incomplete. From Logan Circle, Rhode Island Ave. seeks to complete the pentagram, but it stops, leaving the left arm incomplete from where RI meets Connecticut (connect it cut?) until Washington Circle.

Incidentally, Penn. Ave., New Hampshire Ave, New York Ave. and P St. form a near perfect pentagon around the star, but from Logan to Mt. Vernon, the opposite of the broken arm, it is unfinished.

Masonic Elements
Where 16th St.--which bisects the pentagram right down the middle--meets P St.--the base of the Pentagon--there is a Masonic Temple which serves as the HQ of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.
Washington Circle is bisected by 23rd St. General George Washinton was an active Freemason.
Mt. Vernon Square rests just north of I (Eye) St. (The "Eye" is included on maps of DC) Mt. Vernon was Washington's home.
David G. Farragut (First Admiral of the Navy) and the Marquis de LaFayette were also Freemasons.
Logan Circle is Bisected by 13th St. General John A. Logan, a Civil War hero, was made a Mason in Benton Lodge No. 64, Illinois.
Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, whose circle lies at the crotch of the pentagram was not only a Freemason, but was invited to Cuba by a group of Freemasons, inspired by the events of 1848, to lead an insurrection against the Spanish. Scott died in 1849 before the plot could be carried out, shortly after having been transferred to Texas.
Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont came from a family of wealth, power and Freemasonic and (allegedly) Illuminist connections. The DuPont family had a prominent role in building DC.
Was Major Brigadier General James Birdseye McPherson a Freemason?

(Top) A beautiful drawing of the National Mall from the McMillan Plan (1901), said by many to be based upon the Sephiroth, or Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
(Bottom) Pierre L'Enfant drew his "Plan of the City of Washington," between March 1791 and February 1792. Although many websites claim L'Enfant was a Freemason, there is no evidence to that effect.

"As far as I have been able to check in the past several years, Sandusky [Ohio] is the only city in the world originally laid out on Masonic symbols." (Go)

Today, the square and compasses are barely visible, as this contemporary map demonstrates. Unlike the D.C. Pentagram, it doesn't really jump out at the looker. With all the talk about the strange geometry of D.C., it's surprising this hasn't caught on yet.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Clémence Isaure: A Legend Born from a Scam

The statue pictured on the left is intriguing from the moment one first lays eyes upon it. With sharp lines and curves she stands watch over a small triangular plaza with an air both haughty and demure. The fountain upon which she rests is as fanciful as the Lady is attractive, decorated with creatures both exotic and common; monsters and turtles seem to pay her homage. And the inscription upon the basin of the fountain: “LEGS SAGE.” It would be a great name for a character in a TV show. A tough yet tender policewoman with a striking set of gams one gets to have a good look at every time she pulls a small but powerful handgun from her ankle holster. Yes, this statue is infused with sensuality; her body seems to strain against the dress at all the important places, the dress which is so voluminous it threatens to envelope her lovely forms completely. It is this tension which undoubtedly gives the piece such an erotic charge. So. All that is a good fancy tongue roll but it still begs the essential question: Who is this sexy dame?

According to the website of the Mairie of Toulouse, the fountain represents “la Belle Paule,” an unbelievably beautiful woman of Renaissance Toulouse. Here is the Mairie’s description:

The Belle Paule fountain is situated at the angle of the rues Concorde and Falguière. Clémence Isaure, alias “la Belle Paule,” lady of the Floral Games, keeps watch atop a column of crystalline appearance upon which the bodies of young girls are etched.
She was realized in 1910 at the initiative of Toulouse businessman Octave Sage[1], who, wishing to embellish his quarter, turned to [sculptor Leo] Laporte Blairsy.

The fountain mingles children, flowers and monsters in the form of serpents. Flowers and lianas support tortoises, reared up on their hind legs, spitting water. Toads and disturbing gargoyles complete this "fauna".

The electricity and lighting were redone in 1996.

The Mairie's text is a misidentification. “La Belle Paule,” was a real person: Paule de Viguier, born in 1518 [elsewhere it is said “certainly after 1535] and died on March 13, 1610. In Toulouse there is a street named after her. Clémence Isaure was a myth, but there's a street named after her too. How could the Mairie have gotten it wrong? Apparently they are not alone. An interesting corroboration of this is to be found in a discussion of Belle Paule in letter 37 of L'Association des Amis de l'Hôtel d'Assézat:

Contrary to what some might think – sometimes confusing her with Clémence Isaure – [la Belle Paule] was not a myth, but a very real Toulousaine whose existence has been proven many times over and whose genealogy was established with precision by Mr. André Navelle.

Perhaps the confusion has arisen from the fact that Paule de Viguier and Clémence Isaure were “born” roughly at the same time, and that Paule de Viguier was later in life a patron of the arts and learning. Perhaps it is because both have strong associations with a feminine ideal. Whoever the real Paule de Viguier was, her identity has been claimed by posterity as an exemplar of virtue, chastity and beauty. Clémence Isaure is likewise identified.

Who then, was Clémence Isaure? Another text elaborates but little upon her function as the “lady of the Floral Games,” touching upon her role both as patron and somewhat mystical embodiment of the feminine ideal:

In the history of Toulouse, the origin of the Floral Games appears inseparable from the mysterious memory of Dama Clemensa, considered the inspiration and benefactress of poets. In the last third of the 15th century, a scholar of the Renaissance, Guillaume Benoît, in a treatise on wills, refers to the bequests given to the city by the illustrious Lady Clémence, distributing gifts of silver flowers to inspire eloquence among the young.
Since 1527, an elegy to Clémence Isaure has been read annually for the feast of May 3rd.


On the eve of the revolution, Florian's novel popularized the legend of Clémence Isaure in which the scholars of the romantic period wanted to discover an embodiment of the mystic poetry of the troubadours.

Tantalizing, but a bit short on detail. How did the origin of the Floral Games come to be associated with Clémence Isaure? Why does Benoît refer to her bequests? According to (eek!) French Wikipedia:

In 1515, when the Consistoire du Gai Savoir and the Capitouls quarreled, the mainteneurs decided to declare their independence: they changed their name to the Compagnie des Jeux Floraux and demanded municipal funding for their events.

To support their demand, they invented the character of Clémence Isaure, who they claimed had bequeathed all her possessions to the city provided that the Floral Games were organized every year. Her legacy included, for example, the “meadow of seven denarii”[2]

To convince the magistrates, they offered as evidence the sepulcher of Bertrande Ysalguier, the statue of which held in its clasped hands an iris, symbolic flower of the “Gay Science.” At the same time, they invented a past for her, creating records from whole cloth. The statue would be modified a century later to cement the legend: the head was replaced, flowers were substituted for the rosary in the right hand, the charter of the Floral Games was placed in the left hand and the lion was removed.

So, because of a power struggle over the control of city funds, the troubadours concocted a character from thin air, creating all the necessary documents to prove her existence, even going so far as to proffer the tomb of another as that of their benefactress. There's a great novel in here. Let’s see if there’s more detail to be had:

On May 3rd 1324, some rich bourgeois organized a poetic joust between troubadours, trouvères and minstrels from near and far.[3] Thus was born the first poetry contest in Europe, if not the world.[4]


To lend weight to their initiative the organizers of the competition offered as a prize a gold violet and called their group the “Compagnie du Gai Savoir.” 

The Capitouls—the bourgeois who controlled the city in the name of the Count of Toulouse—added a silver marigold and a gold wild rose to the prizes, which were announced each year.

In 1515, the company took the name of Compagnie des Jeux Floraux. It was placed shortly after under the patronage of Clémence Isaure, a lady of the previous century who had made to them a gift of her possessions…but whose existence if anything was unproven.


The jury of the Floral Games proved its wisdom by rewarding a gold lily to a young Victor Hugo at 19 years old. Chateaubriand was also crowned. And of course there is poet François Fabre d'Églantine who has bequeathed to us the revolutionary calendar and “It rains, it rains, shepherdess…” (The second part of his name recalls the silver wild rose [eglantine] won in the Floral Plays and thus he was very proud!)

Historically, this adds little to answer our questions, but the symbolism of the flower is ever-present. The prizes awarded to the poets are all flowers which have been variously considered as symbols of the Virgin. The lily's sweet fragrance and white color have long been seen as a sign of Mary's humility and purity. The violet has also been thus considered. The marigold, whose English name comes from “Mary's Gold,” represents for many believers her domesticity and simplicity. Sometimes it represents her sorrows; indeed, the French for marigold, souci, can also mean “cares” or “worries.” The rose is associated with Mary in many contexts, especially as Queen of Heaven, and many miraculous appearances of Mary--such as the Virgen de Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico--involve roses. The rose is also associated with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

St. Thérèse, having promised to send the faithful roses from Heaven, is called “the little flower” and her shrine at Lisieux is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in France. The church in Toulouse dedicated to Sainte Thérèse can be found on the rue Belle Paule, and a statue of her features prominently in the nave of the church of the Daurade.

In the basilica of the Daurade where the elegy to Clémence Isaure is read, the Black Madonna there is sumptuously adorned with lilies. The origin of Black Madonnas has been linked with the Song of Solomon 1:5 (“I am black, but comely”) as far back as St. Bernard. In the next chapter--2:1 and 2:2--we find the following: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” and “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” These erotic verses make the mix all that more interesting. Flowers are sexy. Just ask Georgia O'Keefe. Is it any wonder that Notre Dame de la Daurade presides over childbirth and is appealed to by those in a family way? There is eroticism in her chastity. Clémence Isaure and Notre Dame serve a similar function as the unattainable lady, untainted by yet forever an object of desire. One can attain the flower, if only.... It would appear significant in this context that the seven troubadours who founded the Games first convened in a monastery orchard, for the Black Madonnas are frequently associated with planted fields, trees and vegetation. A painting (c. 1893) in the Mairie of Toulouse has Clémence appearing to the troubadours in a sacred grove accompanied by three virginal muses. Although more pagan it its overt symbolism, there is something of an apparition of Mary in the depiction. To her right there is a statue of Pallas Athena; according to legend, when a lake was drained at the site of the Daurade basilica, a statue of Pallas Athena was found.

The prizes of the Floral Games are associated with a feminine ideals, just as the very games themselves were made possible by the generosity of another idealized woman. We have already noted that the prizes were attributed to Dame Clémence, Lady Clemency; no surprise then that it is to the Vierge Noire of the Daurade where the Academy brings these prizes to be blessed each May, when the elegy to Lady Clémence is read. One author points out that the Virgin Mary was the original spiritual benefactress of the Games and that Clémence Isaure became its earthly one, but over time she assumed the role of a Celestial Virgin. A bust (below, left) of Clémence from 1882 sits on a socle decorated with a lyre and flowers, and her clasp is decorated with a representation of the Virgin. Another brief text further illustrates how the Virgin and Isaure were conflated:

The origins of the Floral Games in 1323 have long been known; their history rests on documents whose authenticity is above suspicion and the name of Clémence Isaure does not appear in these documents. At the beginning of the 16th century, the historical memory of the Floral Games had become significantly weakened in Toulouse. For close to two centuries the crowned poets celebrated the Holy Virgin--a subject which over time custom had made obligatory—by striving to find new epithets for the object of their worship. One is able, by going through the verses of the Toulouse school of the 14th and of 15th centuries which have been preserved for us, to collect the elements of the poetic litanies to the Virgin. In the 15th century, the leniency of the mother of Jesus was particularly celebrated and, in 1471, a poet called upon the Virgin under the name of Monfort del monte Clemensa (Lenient Comfort of the World). From there, little by little, spread the false idea that this “Clemensa,” a name which glided ceaselessly over the institution of the Floral Games, must have been a woman who had really existed and carried the name of Clémence; to explain the sort of worship which was rendered her, the supposition arose that this lady Clémence had founded or endowed the poetic institution so dear to Toulouse.

The first author who believed[5] in the real existence of Clémence appears to be Guillaume Benoît, counselor to the parliament of Toulouse (d. 1520). In 1527, the celebrated Etienne Dolet composed and solemnly recited in Toulouse a piece of Latin verse “about a certain woman, founder of the floral games” (de muliere quandam quae ludos rarios Tholosae constituit). The name of Isaure appeared for the first time in 1549, in a ballad rewarded by the Floral Games; the name is that of a legendary count of Toulouse, to which the poet saw fit to connect the most legendary Clémence. Strangely, the local propagation of the faith in Clémence Isaure was facilitated by the Capitouls of Toulouse, who—eager to take a part of their financial management from the control of the parliament—claimed that most of the realties of the city came to them from this lady, and consequently could not be considered as "common deniers, nor gifts or grants of the king." Thus welcomed as authentic and solemnly installed in the Capitol, in 1557, was a statue of Clémence Isaure that was said to have been found in the church of the Daurade and an epitaph was invented for the occasion, probably by Marin Gascon, consul and historian of Toulouse. The academy of the Floral Games had been taken under the special protection of Clémence Isaure for a long time, and her eulogy was pronounced every year in a solemn session which took place on May 3rd; we understand from then on how difficult it was for not only the masses, but even certain learned scholars, to accept the nevertheless indubitable conclusions of historical criticism.

This extended entry makes bit clearer what happened around the time Dame Clémence was invented, although it leaves some things unexplained.

 According to the legend Clémence Isaure was born in 1450 to a large and venerable Toulousain family. In her youth, she fell in love with a valiant knight, a lover of poetry and the arts, who died in combat. Clémence carried a torch, and never married. She devoted herself to the arts, earning praise for her verse from the Compagnie du Gai Savoir. During the war with the English she kept the Floral Games alive by taking it upon herself to provide for the prizes given out and through her charm, grace and financial support brought the contest back into vogue. Upon her death in 1500 she bequeathed to the city all her numerous properties, charging the Capitouls with providing for the expenses of the Company of the Floral Games. As of 1527, one of the mainteneurs spoke in praise of Clémence Isaure at each opening of the Games. She had literally become--by dint of her well-known chastity, her protection of and participation in the Games--a muse.

By 1558 the Capitouls seemed to have forgotten the stipulations of Clémence. In the course of a public meeting, one Jean Bodin of Angers publicly harangued them and they in turn asked Bodin to provide the contract of donation.

Somehow Bodin manged to create the impression that the Capitouls had destroyed this contract to escape their charge. At the end municipal officials were forced to respect their obligations.

But uncertainty lingered. Many doubted the existence of Clemence, despite the fact that her alleged father--Louis--was registered in the city records. Some even think that the Capitouls themselves invented the character in order to enrich the city, many skeptics perhaps none to happy that she had bequeathed so many valuable properties. It did not help that her statue, still on view in the hôtel d'Assézat, is a fake and that no record of Isaure's will was to be found.

According to Gérard de Sède, even skeptics of the day noted that "Lady Clemency" had been a title of the Virgin since the 14th century. He says some claimed that "Isaure" actually mean Isis Aurea: "Golden Isis." Placing her alleged grave under the Madonna in the Daurade--a Black Madonna whose name means "Golden"--thus evidences the purely symbolic nature of her name. De Sède mentions that others connect Clémence with something brought back from Isauria, a region of Asia Minor, by the crusaders via Constantinople . The members of the company, he reminds us, were sworn to secrecy; it appears that Gay Science might in fact have been a secret doctrine kept hidden in symbols, perhaps Catharism. He muses that Clémence might have been invented as a smokescreen to hide the real purpose of a powerful secret society. So at least we can exhale now that the inevitable link to Catharism has been made. It is amusing that Leo the Isaurian was an iconoclast Emperor in Constantinople and that the Cathars, who were being persecuted in Languedoc as their ancestors the Bogomils were being harried in the old Byzantine Empire by Crusaders there, were also noted for their iconoclasm. But as for Gérard de Sède, anything he mentions in connection with the subject should be taken with a hefty dose of salt, for it was he and Pierre Plantard who hatched the Priory of Sion hoax.

A chronicler of Toulouse quotes these verses in his work devoted Clémence:
“Our Isaure does not share anything with this transitory World.
And you who ask for traces from the ground
Look rather towards the skies…”

[1] Which gives a humorous secondary meaning to the inscription on the base: “Legs Sage” could be read both as “Wise Legacies” or “Sage’s Legacy.”
[2] A denarius was a 3rd century Roman coin originally valued at “ten asses.”
[3] According to the charter of the Floral Games, Las Leys d' Amor (“Laws of Love”) written by Guillaume Molinié in 1356, seven troubadours gathered in 1323 in an orchard and decided to organize a contest for the best poem. One year later, May 3, 1324, Arnaud Vidal of Castelnaudary won the prize with a song dedicated to the Virgin in front of a jury made up of the seven mainteneurs of “Gay Science” and twelve Capitouls.
[4] Umm, except perhaps for those held in ancient Greece, just to name one obvious example.
[5] Or at least claimed to believe....
Translations by Daurade